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Christmas Party

Posted on Thursday 28th December 2006 at 00:00
This is the post I should have forced myself to write imediately after the event, while it was still all fresh in my mind. Had I known I wouldn't have time again until now, I would have done so. It concerns a Thursday evening a couple of weeks before Christmas, on which I was planning to go out with some colleagues on what would be my first evening out this academic year. I hope it proves to have been worth the wait.

I step from the bus as quickly as I can and break instantly into a brisk walk. By my best estimates, I am at least half an hour late arriving in City Centre, partly on account of my own poor organisation and partly because of the buses, which are as shockingly unreliable tonight as they've ever been. Much to my annoyance the pavement is infested with young people, some wearing as little as possible and walking as briskly as possible from the bus to their club or bar of choice, before the chill night air becomes too unpleasent upon their bare skin. Others are dressed in all the attire of a hiker, including rucksacks stuffed to the brim, on account of which they are walking slowly and carefully, battling against the weight trying constantly to topple them over backwards.

I've already constructed a hastily thought out and poorly planned route in my mind that I hope will take me to a place I've never been, along a road I've never trodden. I'm aware more from hearsay than any direct experience that their are a series of steps, known as the Christmas Steps, which climb steeply from somewhere just across the road from me to somewhere hopefully near the top of Park Street, which itself is apparently somewhere near a place called the Bristol Triangle, a well known destination for Bristol clubbers that I have never knowingly been near. There I hope to spot a bar called MBargo, the website for which was somewhat less than helpful.

I find the steps with surprising ease and begin at once to run up them as best I can, taking my eyes from my feet every few metres in order to check my watch. Upon emerging at the top, sticky and thoroughly out of breath, I find that I don't know where I am. A sign nearby points me in the direction of the Triangle and I set off at as fast a walk as my grumbling legs will permit me. Eventually I find a road I know and hastly begin to trot in the direction which I assume must lead me to my destination. The helpful sign posts clearly do not go out this far. At one point I observe a car stop to let someone out of a side road or car park entrance. Almost immediately the car behind starts incesantly beeping his horn and making rude gestures at the car in front, seemingly unaware that the car can't go anywhere. This continues until the obstruction has moved and both cars are able to set off, the second following the first closely and reving loudly all the way up the hill. I find myself wondering whether this guy is late for an evening out as well, or if he is just some asshole with anger management problems. As I pass a Shell garage I notice that the price of petrol has begun to climb again and I wish I had a mobile number for someone at the party so I could let them know that I'm on my way.

At the top of the hill I become even more confused than usual and waste 10 minutes wondering around looking for the bar. Luckily my instinct guides me true and I soon find myself just across the street from my destination. I time my crossing well and am able to make it from one side to the other without encuring the wrath of any overactive horn users. Upon entering MBargo, I am immediately struck by how empty it is. Not totally empty, but empty enough that a party of 20 familiar faces should stand out clearly enough.

I walk twice round the stiflingly hot room, once in each direction and soon conclude that I have failed to find my friends. I consider asking the barman if he has seen them, but not knowing exactly who should be there nor wishing to offend him by suggesting that he couldn't miss a large group of customers in his empty bar I decide against it. Instead, I step outside to consider my options. The plan was to meet at 7:30 for a few drinks before moving on to Oceana for the evening. It is now 8:15 so it is possible that I've missed them through my stupid lateness. I check the bar next door quickly to see if they've moved in there instead but have no luck and so resolve to march down Park Street as quickly as I can and see if I can intercept them before the reach the club.

Along the way I look in at the windows of various bars I pass in the hope of seeing them, but have to accept after the third or fourth that they are all far too full for me to stand much chance of spotting them, even if they are there. I then turn my mind to considering whether or not to write about this little mishap on my blog. My gut instinct is to save myself the embarrassment and keep it entirely to myself, but I think of Petite and Sally and others who appear to be able to swallow their pride and write about almost anything, regardless of the cost to their self respect. I resolve that this incident must be written about, no matter how the evening turns out, and from that point my brain records all events as though in preparation for writing.

I reach Oceana without running into anyone I know, all the while wondering why I'm the only person who's alone on the Waterfront this evening. There is no queue for the club yet and as such the bouncers endeaver to kill time by checking my ID, despite the fact that I'm dressed in a shirt and tie, long black coat and sensible shoes, and look nothing like a 17 year old. Clearly they are quite surprised by my actual age and make an embarrassed comment about how by the time I'm thirty I'll look twenty. I choose to ignore this and move on to the counter, where I'm persuaded to part with a fiver in exchange for admittance.

Once inside I learn that almost the entire club is reserved for group bookings this evening and that only the bit within my immediate line of sight is open to anyone else. I quickly scan the almost desserted room and find no one I recognise. I buy a drink and sit down to consider my position. One person I can think of knows of the evening out and might have contact with someone who's going. I resolve to text her as the music prevents me from standing much chance of holding a conversation in the normal way.

After 20 minutes I find my drink finished and no reply to my message. I step outside to enquire about the parties who have reservations and quickly assertain that none of them are likely to be mine. I'm pretty hungry by this point and can feel the alcohol quickly going to my head and so begin to walk away from the club, in the direction of a fast food outlet known as Kebab-U-Like. As I walk past the other bars I consider whether if I enter one later in the evening and try to explain my situation over the music to a group of attractive girls I might be able to score some sympathy sex off one of them, or at least get bought a drink.

I stumble through the centre, slipping on the wet pavement and wooden decoration and turn right onto Baldwin Street. It occures to me that I could always wind up in Bar-Me and sit for the rest of the evening staring at the big screen projector as it displays photos of drunk girls flashing their breasts and bottoms for all to see, while everyone else dances around me, probably spilling drinks all over my head. It isn't the sort of scene I normally aim for, but with plans A, B and C out the window I figure beggers can't be choosers, right?

Sadly upon passing Bar-Me I find the windows boarded up and the sign over the door now reading what I remember as "Pussies Club" in pink writing, although looking back now I can't imagine it could have really been anything so questionable. How much things change when you don't go out for a few months. I wander on to Kebab-U-Like and find myself in an almost empty shop. Two gentlemen appear to be placing an overly complicated order and by the time I am served I've already decided on cheese burger and chips.

These are duely delivered, the latter coming in enough salt to give a weaker man a heart attact, not to mention enough vinegar to drown a small dog. Still, serves me right for adding them myself I guess. The shop is still fairly empty at this time and so I sit down on one of the hard plastic chairs to eat and consider my options once again. A film seems a possibility, but a check of my watch tells me that I'd never get in and out again in time to catch the last bus, and I don't really want to have to pay for a taxi home. Perhaps some late night shopping then, so that the evening isn't a complete waste? That seems more feesable as the shops are open late on Thursdays just before Christmas.

I get up and throw away my rubbish. The bin, I note is not in its usual place but has been moved to make way for a large metal box bearing the label "PizzaMaster". An identical but evidently newer box can be seen at the far end of the kitchen. I walk along the street, turning into the dark alleyways of St Nicholas' Market, apparently not bothered about the risks of being mugged in such a place at night. At the far end I cross the road and am almost run over by a big blue double decker bus that appears to be hosting a party on its upper deck.

When I reach the shopping centre I find it closed. Where as to me "late night shopping" means a closing time of anywhere between say 10pm and 2am, here it seems to be been 8pm, which in truth is actually mid evening shopping, not late night at all. The cinema, which I check out of curiousity turns out to be of equal disappointment, with no films showing all evening and the whole place locked up for the night. Pretty bad for half 9 thinks I.

I now need a drink and the toilet and so begin to wonder the streets trying to work out the best source of both of these things. As my mind changes I keep switching directions, doubling back on myself a number of times and regularly finding myself on the sort of back streets I wouldn't feel comfortable on in broad day light with lots of people around. I don't care though. I'm tired and fed up and a mugging would be an improvement, if only for the brief company.

I eventually decide upon the bus station as my port of call. 20p to use the loos is a better deal than having to go into a bar and buy a drink to be allowed to wee. Upon reaching the bus station I go to the loo and then buy a drink anyway, albiet from an overpriced vending machine that has nothing in it I like except coke. I open the bottle of coke without thinking and its contents explodes all over me, covering my hands, coat, shoes and the white tiled floor with sticky brown liquid before I can do the cap back up. A man looks at the mess and tuts at me.

I wander over to a seat and sit down to drink. The only other time I've been in the bus station was to see off someone I was seeing at the time who lived in a nearby town. Ironically enough, the bus by which I am sat is the one I used to catch to visit her. I briefly consider the feesability of getting on the bus and going over to see her now. I wonder how she'd react if I turned up slightly drunk on her door step unannounced in the middle of the night. Probably not very well. We parted on bad terms. Funny how whenever I'm sad and lonely the idea of seeing her suddenly becomes appealing again.

At 10 the bus pulls away, I finish my drink and put down the copy of the Metro in which I was reading more about the dead prostitutes. The night has been wasted and I want to go home, and so walk towards my bus stop. Once I get there I discover that the bus no longer uses that stop but uses one about 150 yards further up the road, towards which I trapse. Once there I find that the bus doesn't go from that one either. Luckily it goes from the next one up and I only have a short wait before it arrives to take me home.

Once back in Fishponds I begin to walk the 10 minutes back to my house. As is sometimes the case I appear to be behind a young woman who is walking the same way as me. I hate these situations as I know that if I were them I'd be concerned that I were being stalked, especially after the first few turns. I endeavour to walk slowly enough as to stay a good distance behind this woman and eventually she turns into a different road and I am able to increase my pace to a speed that will stop me from freezing to death. The single thought that occures to me over and over as I walk home and during the remainder of the evening is what a waste it has been, getting dressed up nicely for such a dreadful evening. Somehow that always seems to be the worst part of these things for me. I feel like a candidate in a general election who's just found out that the other guy won and is now standing in an empty room by himself, looking round at the wasted party arrangements; the food, the balloons, the sign saying "Congratulations". If I wasn't so tired I'd probably cry.

I found out later that the small group of people who did bother to turn up in the end reached MBargo a full hour after they were supposed to and at about the same time as I was sitting in Oceana by myself, beginning to realise just how ruined my evening really was.

Apparently they had a great time.

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